Mark Williams says he is no longer at the same level as Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins as he looks ahead to his defence of snooker’s World Seniors Championship title.
O’Sullivan described the trio as the “OAPs of the sport” after winning the Masters last week, with all three having turned 40 within the past year.
Higgins won three ranking events in 2015, while Williams also enjoyed a resurgence, taking the seniors crown on his debut in the event and climbing back into the world’s top 16 with consistent form.
But the Welshman maintains that his best years are well behind him.
“We are the old men on the tour but it’s those two who are winning the tournaments,” said Williams.
“Ronnie has still got good form and can play to a high standard, so can John.
“Unfortunately I can’t play to the standard that they play to at the moment, even though they are not at their best. I just keep plugging along and just getting on with it.”
In fact, two-time World champion Williams is relieved just to be competing on the pro tour having recovered from a rotator cuff injury which threatened his career.
“It feels fine now, for the first time in about two years I can wipe my cue with a cloth and not have any pain,” said the winner of 18 ranking titles, who had surgery last July.
“My doctor said I might have been out for 18 months. Luckily, I was only out for two or three months.”
Williams will join John Parrott, Jimmy White, Ken Doherty and Joe Johnson among the 16-man field for the World Seniors event at the Preston Guild Hall.
The tournament will run on the weekend of January 30-31 and the Williams has happy memories of the venue at which he defeated John Higgins to win his third Grand Prix title back in 2003.
“The Guild Hall is my favourite venue,” said Williams. “Even when we used to have the qualifiers there it is one of the best venues I have played in.”
Last year, Williams defeated Fergal O’Brien 2-1 in the final to capture the £18,000 top prize but expects a tougher challenge in 2016 with several main tour players in the draw.
“It’s more difficult now with a lot of top pros in there who are still on the circuit,” he added.
“Last year everyone expected me to win it because I was one of the main pros in it. It’s very open this time.”
Televised by Sky Sports, the World Seniors Championship brings together stars of the modern game and past eras.
Tickets are on sale now and start at just £10, but fans must book fast because they are selling out.
For details call 01772 804444 or visit www.worldsnooker.com/tickets.
The full draw and format is:
January 30, from 1pm: Peter Ebdon v Nigel Bond, Mark Williams v Anthony Hamilton, Tony Drago v Robert Milkins, Joe Johnson v Darren Morgan
From 7pm: Ken Doherty v Mark Davis, John Parrott v Dominic Dale, Rory McLeod v Fergal O’Brien, Jimmy White v Gary Lees
January 31, from 1pm: Quarter-finals
From 7pm: Semi-finals and Final